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How to Develop Yourself as a Non-Profit Leader

Professional development in the non-profit sector is a vital tool for strengthening organizational effectiveness in the face of continuous change. In most cases, community needs are many, resources are few and both funding and policy parameters are continuously in flux. Leaders who intentionally focus on becoming good managers and who align their approach with their evolving roles position themselves for success.

Non-profits face increased demands for service, expectations to partner and pressure to improve efficiency and demonstrate outcomes. Many people who are working within the ranks of nonprofit organizations could become great senior nonprofit leaders. However, in part because of budget constraints, few organizations in the sector have formal professional development programs to prepare mid-level managers for senior roles.

A recent ProInspire survey of nonprofit managers revealed that, despite demand for professional development programs, such offerings are scarce and access is limited in the sector. Nine out of ten nonprofit managers indicated interest in leadership or managerial training, and believe that it will make them more effective in their roles, yet only half of them have received such training since assuming a role managing direct reports. What’s more, only 39 percent of respondents said their organizations pay for leadership or managerial training.

YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka’s Not-For-Profit Professional Development Certificate Program

That’s why the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, in partnership with Lakehead University have made it a priority to offer new leadership training opportunities to the community leaders of Simcoe County. While business and community leaders may have access to skills-based leadership training, the YMCA’s Not-For-Profit Professional Development Certificate program focuses on the leadership capacity of the individual. The program explores what it takes to be an effective leader using academically sound and research supported content. The YMCA/Lakehead program provides quality, cost-effective training that is distinctly suited to the needs of our leaders in the area.

Since the launch of the partnership in 2014, the Professional Development Certificate Program has certainly made an impact in the not-for profit world – “Participating in Level 1 of the program really helped me reframe my personality traits in a positive light and helped me understand my leadership qualities,” said Nathan Sykes, Coalition Member, Youth Haven. “The speakers offered a great deal of insight into many pertinent issues, such as employer and donor relations, time management, group development, conflict resolution, mission based prioritization and many other topics. I would recommend the course to anyone.”

Over 70 participants have completed Level 1 of the program from such organizations as – Children’s Treatment Network, Canadian Red Cross, Barrie Public Library, County of Simcoe, Breaking Down Barriers, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, Ontario Provincial Police and more.

Level 2 of the certificate program is being offered from November 23-26, 2016 and will focus on emotional intelligence & leadership, resiliency, change management, volunteer management, conflict resolution, and the art of persuasion. Level 3 is being offered from March 29-31, 2017 and will focus on collaboration, succession planning, governance, philanthropic leadership, and cultural diversity. The faculty and panelists combine academic rigor with real world experience and infuse the curriculum with fresh perspectives. Level 2 faculty include:

  • Kathi Wallace, Director of Education, Simcoe County District School Board
  • Jill Tettman CEO, North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN
  • Dale Biddell, CEO, United Way

Let’s keep the conversation going about nonprofit professional development, and raise the standard of offering for our sector. After all, nothing catalyzes change like focus.

For more information about the YMCA Professional Development Certificate Program, please visit

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Strengthsquest - self assessment

• Identify your top 5 talents
• Learn the power behind your talents and how to intentionally apply them daily
• The benefits and power of a strengths based approach
• The tools to begin your StrengthsQuest journey and establish a strengths based culture

Leadership Communication

• Identify your communication style
• Gain awareness about the impact you have on others based on how you communicate
• Learn techniques and the awareness needed to be a truly great communicator

Transformational Leadership

• Defining leadership throughout the ages
• Learn to differentiate between trending concepts on leadership to those that are proven, relevant and applicable today
• Learn to identify what leadership styles have influenced you and what leadership style and the characteristics you would most like to exemplify. What form of leadership is your team or organization led by? Which style would have the most impact?

Strategic Planning

• Why is it important?
• How does one get started?
• What makes a good strategic plan? – learn the essentials

Team Effectiveness - Stages of Development

• Be provided with the tools needed to assess at what level of performance your team is working at
• Learn to kick start and transition your team to one that is highly performing

Mindfulness - Group Approach

• Strategies, techniques & its importance towards attaining a work/life balance

Strengthsquest - Motivation and Engagement

• Learn to manage your talents and those of your team as an interactive process
• You will be able to assess if you are in the right role and determine if managing people is the right fit for you? Are you developing or damaging your teams?

Managing Performance

• Tried and true tools perfect for staff evaluations
• You will be able to differentiate between critical behaviour needing intervention versus behaviour that can be coached
• You will be provided with the tools on how to address staff behaviour & coach your teams


• Learn the science, physiological & psychological responses that impact decision making and personal interaction
• You will be able to look at the work environment through a different lens noting its impact on potential employee performance and learning the means to intervene and influence for better results

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Resiliency

• Provides additional insights on how you are perceived and how that awareness can lead to greater impact as a leader

Change Management

• Examines the impact change has throughout an organization and provides you with the tools and understanding of how to navigate through change with the least collateral & cultural damage

Conflict Resolution

• Learn the tools needed to be able to find the common ground needed to move beyond an impasse

The Art of Persuasion

• Realize the weight of your words and actions and how to put that knowledge to the best use
• Where do you fit within the political milieu?

Strengthsquest - followership and leadership

• Move beyond what your individual talents contribute to a team and start to learn to intentionally aim & maximize the talents of others
• With this understanding you will be able to address and provide what your team members need from you as their leader

Principled-Centre Leadership

• You will learn to appreciate and consider the weight of responsibility that comes as you evolve as a leader
• You will examine ethical dilemmas and the means to address them, as well as the consequences those decisions may have

Philanthropic Leadership

• Learn a strategic approach to philanthropic visioning for your organization. As the funding landscape changes so too must our approach to philanthropy
• You will examine your readiness to adapt to these changes and how to instill a framework and culture of philanthropy that can be sustained for the long term

Board Governance

• Learn the importance of Governance and the essential role it plays as part of any organization
• Learn to assess at what stage of Governance your board operates at and how to move their level of engagement should your organization be ready for the shift
• You will be given the tools to fully understand & implement best practices of governance into your organization

Collaboration and Strategic Partnerships

• You will be provided with the tools in order to assess the readiness of your organization and your board to collaborate or partner with another organization
• We will discuss and examine what governing practices need to be in place in order for collaboration to not only occur but also succeed

Unconscious Bias

• Everyone is biased. With that understanding and acceptance you will learn how to make decisions that acknowledges the role bias can often play within that process
• You will discuss best practices and be provided with the tools needed to implement them

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